The dance between light and dark
I apologize for skipping the entire month of August. I’ve been happily busy with work and the myriad of fun things my blessed life brings me. Up until yesterday, Badger and I were enjoying our single mom/dog time. Joe is in the states until September 28. Badger loved his sitters who would take care of him while I went to work or on a day trip with friends, and I enjoyed making him his special dinner bowls while I whipped up salads and things Joe would prefer to not eat. We both enjoyed our walks and time with friends on the Place, and of course we missed our Joe too, but we had a good routine going.
That all changed Sunday night. Badger walked more crooked and moved even slower than normal during his before-bed pee. He was antsy and wouldn’t settle down when we went to bed. He went into the living room and made sure I knew he wanted company. From the bedroom I could hear him doing his “bitch where you at” sighs, so I came out to move his doggie bed and water bowl closer to the fan. I told him I was tired, gave him a good night pat and went to bed. A few hours later he started barking. Totally pissed off and annoyed, I came out to snap at him. He was struggling more than normal to get up. He’s an old, old dog (more of a hobbit), so it was normal for his body to betray him. I reluctantly moved my pillow and blanket to the couch (because hello? I’m also not young and I needed my sleep) and massaged his hips until he settled down and went to sleep. Sleep didn’t last long. His bowels gave out next. He freaked out because he could no longer stand. Our dog has never allowed himself to defecate in the house (early puppyhood excluded). Now, he’s shitting himself uncontrollably. I cleaned him as best I could. Then came the vomit and the seizures (they were mild but still troubling to watch). My sweet old dog was stroking out, and there was nothing he nor I could do, so I sat in his excrement and wiped his face and paws with a warm cloth and mumbled stupid things like “it’s okay.” Which, of course, it wasn’t.
He calmed down and was able to regain control of who he was, but he did so by no longer fighting what was happening. He was still in pain, and I’m pretty sure he knew his time was short, so he said fuck it and just let me love him. I got him one of Joe’s pillows because I figured he’d enjoy having Joe’s scent nearby as well, plus Badger has always loved to burrow his snout into a good pillow, which he did. He slept for a bit, woke up a lot, but always calmed down when he saw I was there to soothe and clean the best I could. Even in dying my dog continued to teach me about the depth of being humane. It’s a light that comforts those we are helping as well as ourselves.
A now friend for life (the mom of two of Badger’s sitters) came to the rescue the next day to help me bring Badger to the vet (all of my other friends were at work, and I didn’t want to ask any of them to take time off for this, but I know all of them would have). We managed to get him on a doggy bed and carry him to the car as if he were a prince on a palanquin. And don’t think for a second my dog didn’t eat that shit up. I swear he lounged and let the sun warm him while we fussed over his comfort. As horrible as it was, it was also a beautiful thing.
When a pet is euthanized the doctor first gives a sedative and, in Badger’s case, some time for dog and blubbering mom to snuggle and say good bye. The look of relief in his eyes when the pain finally stopped was such a gift. In his own way he let me know he was good, it was time, and then he fell asleep and snored. This is how I would like to die, snoring with my head on a loved one’s lap.
My dog died yesterday, and, yes, I am engulfed with all the layers of sorrow. I’m normally not much of a crier; these past two days I’ve done so much of it I wonder if I’ll run out of tears. But, I am also in wonder and awe at how much my dog has given me in his final moments.
I used to worry that I’d burden my loved ones with the indignity of whatever horrors my own body will release toward my end. I now know that none of that matters. All we have to do is let go and take the love our people want to give us. The dance between our light and dark selves is part of the magic we all bring, and it becomes immortal when we embrace the love that binds us. Should I be denied this chance for whatever reason, I want my loved ones to know that I will remember this lesson, and I will go with their love. How fucking amazing is that?
While I want to picture Badger chasing birds with his animal buddies that passed before him, I also realize it doesn’t matter if there is any form of life after death. There might be; there might not be. Who cares? What matters is what we do with the time we have, and trust me my dog spent his days well. He loved his people, his snacks, his walks, his everything, and he never held a grudge — although he’d totally give you the side eye if you didn’t slide him a snack.
I think the reason we love our pets so much is that they bring out the best in us, even when we don’t want to be that best. I think they teach us so much more about humanity than we teach ourselves, if that makes sense.
Badger has his own blog, which I created, so we could capture his overseas adventures. I will write his final post after Joe returns. I know Joe is burdened with not being here, but he shouldn’t be. He deserves the trip he is currently on, and Badger would much rather have Joe howling in the woods with his buddies versus being sad and lonely in our apartment.
When Joe returns we will bring Badger’s ashes to the Ardennes and sprinkle him along the hiking trails he loved but could no longer walk (oh but how he wanted to). We will also remember him fondly with our friends who also loved him — perhaps dropping an ash or two in the parks he loved to roam, and most certainly on spilled beer at his favorite bar.
Joe and I will embrace our time together and do what any good soul would want us to do — live and, for Dog’s sake, take in the love.
Thank you Badger for giving us so much wonderful!